Insikt och närvaro : akademiska kontemplationer kring buddhism, meditation och mindfulness

Katarina Plank

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis (monograph)


The purpose of this study is to investigate how a religious tradition changes when transposed to a new context: how it is received and incorporated in its new context and how individuals in Sweden perceive and make use of this tradition. This is done by highlighting the development of insight meditation, Vipassana, and more specifically, the Burmese practice lineage originating from the Burmese lay meditation teacher U Ba Khin and his student S N Goenka. The study gives a broad and rich depiction of contemporary Buddhist insight meditation (Vipassana), its historical conditions as well as the reception of meditation in religious and secular contexts in Sweden. The study aims to contribute to the understanding of new religious movements, Buddhist meditation and religious change in contemporary Swedish society. It wishes also to participate in an in-depth critical discussion of the growing use of mindfulness as a therapeutic treatment. By using a variety of approaches and methods, such as field work, interviews and conversations, survey and text analysis, as well as by applying theoretical pluralism, the study displays the complex web of contemporary interpretations of which meditation is a part. By means of participation observation, the field work includes a total of more than six months meditative experience at intense meditation retreats. In Sweden several groups teach meditation with a more or less Buddhist foundation, where the meditation practice can be said to be either “embedded in”, or “disembedded of” Buddhist tradition. Among the approximately 40 Buddhist groups in the country (comprising around 30,000 Buddhists of mainly Asian origin), Buddhist mindfulness (sati) in the form of Vipassana meditation is taught in Asian temples by monks and by convert groups. The majority of users seem to relate in a liberal way in their interpretations and usages of meditation and their religious inclinations show both modern and postmodern features. Mindfulness, as an East-West hybrid, has become very popular and can be found among many New Age groups as well as other groups in the alternative health sector, where religiosity is expressed in terms of health and whose purpose is expressed in finding one’s own inner potential. Hybrid mindfulness can also be found in more pronounced secular environments, for example, in the Swedish health care sector, where it is applied in a clinical perspective designed to treat specific symptoms. Here, mindfulness is taught - and even sold expensively - in a ritual context that emphasizes the individual and the self, emphasizes health benefits and is closely linked to powerful economic forces. Mindfulness in this respect tends to imply creating a state of sensuality and wellbeing. Practice mimics to some extent Buddhist meditation, but there are also significant differences, particularly in the setting of the ritual context.
Original languageSwedish
Awarding Institution
  • Centre for Theology and Religious Studies
  • Qvarnström, Olle, Supervisor
  • Olsson, Tord, Supervisor
Award date2011 Jun 3
ISBN (Print)978-91-7061-095-0
Publication statusPublished - 2011

Bibliographical note

Defence details

Date: 2011-06-03
Time: 13:15
Place: Auditoriet (sal 206), Universitetshuset, Paradisgatan 2, Lund

External reviewer(s)

Name: Jacobsen, Knut
Title: professor
Affiliation: Universitetet i Bergen.


Subject classification (UKÄ)

  • Philosophy, Ethics and Religion

Free keywords

  • tradition
  • Burmese Buddhism
  • DBT
  • Sweden
  • mindfulness
  • mindfulness-based treatment approaches
  • MBSR
  • MBCT
  • Western Buddhism
  • Vipassana meditation
  • spirituality
  • contemporary religiosity
  • modernity
  • Buddhist modernism
  • psychology
  • health care

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